February 10, 2000
New Argentine leader De la Rua gets backing of key opposition figure

                   BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -- New Argentine President Fernando de la
                   Rua, who is two months into his job, secured the support of the opposition
                   Peronist Party's most powerful figure Thursday -- the governor of vast
                   Buenos Aires Province.

                   De la Rua said Gov. Carlos Ruckauf, whose province the size of Italy is
                   home to about a third of Argentina's 36 million people, would back his
                  Alliance government's proposals "as long as it considers them sensible."

                   As leader of the biggest and richest province, Ruckauf is the second most
                   powerful politician in the land, making him the most important official from
                   the Peronist Party. Peronism still boasts the biggest membership despite
                   losing last October's elections.

                   Buenos Aires Province is a traditional Peronist stronghold, and Ruckauf's
                   victory there in October's voting had cast some doubts on the Alliance's
                   capacity to govern effectively.

                   Ruckauf's cooperation will be key for De la Rua's minority coalition
                   government of centrist Radicals and the center-left Frepaso, which took
                   over last December after a decade of rule by Carlos Menem, still titular head
                   of the Peronist Party.

                   De la Rua, formerly mayor of Buenos Aires city -- which is surrounded by
                   the province of the same name -- is seeking support of key governors from
                   the Alliance and Peronism alike for his efforts to bring Argentina's spending
                   under control.

                   He is also trying to forge a common strategy against a rise in violent crime,
                   especially in Ruckauf's province.

                   On Wednesday, the central government agreed to give four cash-strapped
                   provinces -- two of them, Tucuman and Tierra del Fuego, Peronist-ruled
                   and the other two, Rio Negro and Catamarca, run by the Alliance -- $550
                   million in loans.

                   In exchange, it wants cuts in provincial budget deficits that it has promised
                   the International Monetary Fund as part of a major new $7.4 billion funding
                   deal for Argentina.

                   But De la Rua and Ruckauf took great pains to avoid being portrayed as
                   political allies from opposing parties.

                   "There is no pact. We came here to work," said De la Rua on a high-profile
                   visit to Ruckauf's headquarters in La Plata, the provincial capital.

                   "Ruckauf supports the central government's ideas as long as he considers
                   them sensible, such as in fighting problems like unemployment, tax evasion,
                   corruption, smuggling and drug trafficking," said De la Rua.

                   "My government's cooperation is not founded on friendship or party political
                   reasons, but on our conviction that if you do well, then the Argentine people
                   will benefit," Ruckauf said to the president at the news conference.

                   "Honesty, transparency and efficiency are our common calling," said the
                   governor, who was Menem's vice-president until last year but grew distant
                   from the Peronist leader.

                   The Alliance won power by promising an austere and honest alternative to
                   the corruption scandals, endemic tax evasion and flamboyance of the
                   Menem years. But it has kept in place most of Menem's successful
                   free-market economic policies.

                    Copyright 2000 Reuters.